By Vic Sutton
The challenges of digital equity and social justice were recurrent
themes in two recent meetings looking at ways to leverage technology to
“Digital equity” is shorthand for the bundle of problems that prevent
many from accessing online resources, in particular the Internet.
Some would-be users live in areas that do not have broadband access.
Other users, even in areas where there is high-speed broadband, cannot
afford it. Yet more people have simply not gotten around to getting
As Dr. Louis Gomez of UCLA put it, we are facing “epic inequality.”
The U.S. education system, Dr. Gomez maintained, “is marked by racial
and class inequality.” He added that poor educational performance “has
persisted for decades for large swaths of the U.S. population.”
Dr. Gomez was speaking at this year’s Cyberlearning 2015
conference, organised by the Center for Innovative Research in
Cyberlearning (CIRCL) and held in Arlington, VA, on 27-28 January.
Digital access – or lack thereof – is one of the challenges. As Dr.
Kumar Garg observed, “We have better wifi in the coffee shop than we do
in the classroom.”
Dr. Garg is a senior advisor to the White House. He added, “We
struggle over goals in education, and we are still far from
transformative education. Moreover, the market is huge, with some 15,000
He concluded, “We have to bolster investment in education.”
The overall goal was succinctly put in a 2011 article by Greg
Borgerding, then-assistant principal at White River High School in the
state of Washington: “If the education of children is a paramount
commitment in our society, it then becomes a moral imperative incumbent
upon superintendents to ensure systemic access and equity for all
The same issues emerged at the 2015 meeting of the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (SITE), most of whose members are individual teacher educators. Its meeting was held in Las Vegas, NV, on 2-6 March.
SITE’s “special interest group” on equity and social justice is one
of fifteen groupings that bring together educators with shared
interests. This year’s meeting resolved to try to arrange a
pre-conference event in 2016, to draw attention to the challenges. .
Much more could be said about the access to broadband of the
different groups in U.S. society, for example, African American, native
American or Latino populations. The Pew Charitable Trusts have good statistics about the issues.
However, at the end of the day, the reality is inescapable. In a
society that relies more and more on online access to information, many
still cannot or do not access the Internet.
The reasons are various, and complex. But the largest is surely a
simple lack of financial resources. We are unlikely to see digital
equity unless we first secure social justice.
1 “What Is the Knowing-Doing Gap?” Susan Goding’s School Board Blog, 28 July 2011